It was the day after shielding had been paused. It was our first adventure, our first holiday, our first trip in five long months; and we were full of joy. As the sun beamed down on us, we sat in a deserted camping field, drinking tea, admiring the hills in the distance, and excitedly making plans to summit one of them that evening. We were on cloud nine. Happy, excited, safe. And that’s when we saw them. Atop the hill. People! Lots of little people! 😛 All walking and climbing and enjoying the view- doing exactly the same as we were hoping to do later. After five months of seeing no one, their little figures sent my head a-whirling and my stomach a-swirling. Rejoining the world is wonderful… but it’s also kinda scary.
When the government announced a pause to shielding, I was elated. Phil and I had expected to be locked in until a vaccine was found. Next Spring at the earliest. Although we were avid and obsessed statistic watchers, thus knew the prevalence of the virus was dropping; it never occurred to us that when the odds of catching it were small enough, it would be vaguely safe for us to reemerge. As soon as it was announced, I was ready to leave my cocoon. Keen, excited, looking forward. Only when given a get-out did I realize how desperate I was to escape the same four walls and the same four fences and the same fields and tracks.
But then when August 1st arrived, and we prepared to open our front door… my nerves started jangling and my mind started whirling. For five months I’d been conditioned to be scared of the outside world. For five months I’d been told to stay in or I’d meet my death. For five months I’d been advised to avoid people and places. Yet now I was free to do everything that I’d been warned off before. And although I’d researched the statistics and knew that now was the safest time of the pandemic so far. Although I trusted the scientists views and agreed with the theory behind their decisions. Although I was confident the odds were in my favour if I reemerged… it was still unnerving. The rational side of my brain knew now was the time to get out, yet the anxious side of me was scared of that lurking monster. And I realised I was at a crossroads. I could retreat back into my sanctuary. Pull up the drawbridge again. Lock out the outside world. Stay safe but live a lesser life. Or I could pull on my brave pants and rejoin society… cautiously and carefully. On my terms, with my rules. Respect the virus, plan ways to keep safe… but then go out and live in full colour.
I have a terminal illness. At 3.5 years past my prognosis, I’m on borrowed time. The coronavirus has already muted some of my precious limited life, disrupted my 2020 plans; and -as I expect shielding to be reinstated- is likely to wreck more. Although I hope and pray, that my Pulmonary Hypertension will remain stable into next year… I might deteriorate, I might die. Locking myself away will not guarantee my survival. So I want to live life now, whilst I have some health. Make amazing memories, have wonderful fun, see people I love. Protect mine and Phil’s mental health. Yes rejoining society is a gamble. But the mental and emotional and physical benefits of freedom far outweigh the small risk. Living beats existing! So I found my inner lion and chose to open my front door. 🙂
Thus, for the past fortnight Phil and I have been taking those first small steps to rejoin the world. Carefully weighing up the benefit versus the risk. Doing things we love and miss, that we deem to be less dangerous. Parks and pub gardens and mountain tops. Campsites and village shops and RSPB sites. Socially distanced picnics with family. And we’ve been taking precautions to protect ourselves from any potentially lurking monsters. Staying outside, going at quieter times, keeping our distance. Wearing masks, washing hands, using alcohol gel if we touch things. Keeping our circle small, no hugging, no sharing. Not going into people’s houses, not letting anyone in ours. Continuing to work from home. I am very aware that I’m in an extremely lucky position to be able to reintegrate at my speed, on my terms. And I’m very very thankful. 🙂 Leaving my cocoon is kinda scary… but it is wonderful to be free again. Amazing. You really appreciate your liberty, when you’ve been in lockdown. 🙂
And yes I did make it up that mountain top, with the scary walkers on it. Sometimes you have to be brave, to see the magnificent view. 🙂